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  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • [APPLAUSE]

  • JOE HUSTON: Yes.

  • So thank you, guys, so much for having me.

  • In general, Google was super early

  • in supporting GiveDirectly and the Google community broadly

  • and in helping people out who are extremely poor by sending

  • cash through our platform.

  • And so we've always felt really close to the Google community.

  • And it's nice to be able to come back and talk about what we're

  • up to, some of the debates that are happening

  • within the development and other sectors, and how cash, I think,

  • is moving those forward.

  • As Max said, I've worn a few different hats at GiveDirectly.

  • When I first started at GiveDirectly,

  • I was in Kenya on the operations side,

  • managing our team, signing people up to receive cash.

  • I spent a year and a half or so there, about a year and a half

  • in Uganda, and just recently switched back

  • over to the finance side in New York.

  • And what GiveDirectly does is pretty straight forward.

  • We send cash unconditionally to people living mostly

  • in extreme poverty.

  • That cash is a grant.

  • It's not a loan.

  • People can spend it however they want.

  • In the most typical model, we will send about $1,000

  • in a couple of chunks over the course of a few months.

  • And then people spend it on whatever they want.

  • In total, we've raised almost $150 million

  • to deliver as cash transfers.

  • And we've enrolled over 80,000 households.

  • Because our operations are fairly straightforward,

  • we're able to stay remarkably lean.

  • And so, on average, about 90% of what

  • we raise for cash transfers gets delivered directly

  • to people's hands at the end of the day.

  • And then as we're doing all of this work,

  • we're constantly running different types

  • of research studies.

  • And so when we first got started in Kenya,

  • we ran a randomized controlled trial

  • testing a bunch of different things about cash transfers--

  • comparing large lump sum cash transfers to recurring stream

  • transfers, testing whether or not male recipients spend money

  • differently from female recipients,

  • as well as the effect of cash transfers

  • on a ton of different outcome variables, earnings

  • and assets, consumption, but also things

  • like stress and depression and things like that.

  • Since then, we've done a number of different research studies.

  • We can talk about things like looking at the effects of cash

  • transfers on macro--

  • the macro aspects of the economy--

  • behavioral aspects of cash transfers,

  • how cash transfers affect coffee farmers,

  • and how they invest in their farms and things like that.

  • Operationally, the process looks a lot like a sales and customer

  • service operations.

  • We'll go door to door and collect data

  • on the people who could potentially

  • receive cash transfers, run a pretty simple logic

  • to decide who is eligible, then go back

  • and collect a little bit more data

  • and inform them about the program.

  • We'll then send the money, typically through Mobile Money.

  • And so that looks like Venmo, but you're

  • able to cash out basically anywhere around you.

  • And we can send thousands of payments

  • with a touch on a laptop.

  • And then we have full time call centers

  • in each of the countries where we work.

  • And so after every time we send payments,

  • we're able to call people up and confirm that they've

  • received it, ask if they have any feedback for GiveDirectly,

  • and understand if they've had any problems.

  • Now that model of just giving unconditional cash

  • is very different from how we're taught through aphorisms

  • or parables about how we're supposed to approach giving.

  • There's this idea that you're supposed to teach a man to fish

  • or not give him a fish.

  • Or that you should give a hand up but not a handout.

  • And I think behind that, there's this idea that giving cash

  • can't be sustainable.

  • And there's also this idea that we should distrust

  • the people we're trying to help somehow, that giving them money

  • could be corrupting.

  • Or if it's not corrupting, that we just

  • can't trust from the outset that it could be spent well.

  • Behind that basic debate, the stakes

  • are actually remarkably high between how we

  • should approach helping people.

  • To give you a sense, this is one way

  • of visualizing what's up for debate.

  • The blue line is global official development assistance.

  • It's one measure of this total amount

  • that governments are spending in foreign aid.

  • The line that's going down over time

  • is the cost of closing the poverty gap.

  • You can think of this as taking everyone

  • who is below the global poverty line

  • and visualizing how much in cash it would take to get them

  • to the poverty line.

  • Now, there's a lot of reasons why

  • that's a simplistic picture of what's going on.

  • But the basic synthesis is that we have incredible resources

  • available to help the people we're trying to help,

  • to help the people in extreme poverty.

  • And a lot of the problem of aid and development

  • is an allocation one-- that it's not

  • so much that we need more resources,

  • but we need to better allocate them.

  • And so this debate about how best should we

  • help people is actually extremely important.

  • So luckily, we don't have to have

  • this debate in this arena of dueling assertions.

  • It doesn't have to be this theoretical or philosophical

  • debate about what people are really like.

  • We can test it.

  • A development that's happened over this last couple

  • of decades within development economics

  • is moving a little bit away from theory

  • towards actually putting things into experimental evaluations.

  • And so the gold standard approach to this

  • is what's called a randomized control trial.

  • It's the same way that we test medicines--

  • by randomly assigning people to either receive or not

  • receive a treatment and then using external evaluators

  • to test the differences in the different outcome variables

  • between those two groups.

  • We've learned a lot of different things

  • from that about different interventions we use.

  • We've learned that we're actually

  • pretty bad at training people or teaching people to fish.

  • The effects of microfinance and things

  • like that are actually pretty mixed.

  • We've also learned that the effects of cash

  • are remarkably consistent, that the exact impacts can vary

  • a lot by the structure of the cash transfers

  • or the people who are receiving them or the context.

  • But you see a few consistent themes.

  • First, people spend it pretty well.

  • You see increases in earnings and consumption,

  • decreases in food insecurity, improvements in nutrition,

  • often increases an uptake on things like health services

  • or actual improvements in health in terms of fewer accidents

  • or better health.

  • You see decreases in stress.

  • To give you a sense of the variety of responses

  • to cash or to security, one study in Malawi

  • tested giving the families of young women

  • a small recurring cash payments-- so just a little bit

  • of security, not a total game changer.

  • What they found is that those women whose families received

  • got married later, pregnant later,

  • and had lower rates of HIV relative to the control group.

  • Because they had a little bit more security in society.

  • On the other side of the spectrum,

  • a study testing giving young people about $400 all at once,

  • if they went back and compared that group of people

  • to a control group, and found that their earnings

  • were 40% higher.

  • That basic result was mirrored in GiveDirectly study that

  • found that a year after people received about $1,000,

  • their earnings were 30% higher and their assets

  • were 58% higher.

  • The other things you don't see are the things

  • people are often worried about.

  • There is this sense that if you give people money,

  • they might drink it.

  • Or it will be corrupting, and they'll stop working.

  • But all of the evidence we have from what's

  • been 165 different studies of cash transfers, which suggest

  • that that doesn't happen.